Unhappy with your appointment booking software?

If you have a method for booking online appointments online, it should be handling at least a third of your appointment booking. That’s right, around 35% of consumers prefer booking appointments after business hours. When it comes to millennials, 25% of them say they exclusively book their appointments online.

So clients love booking online. And you love not having to lift a finger (or a phone) to schedule an appointment.

What’s the hangup?

Sometimes the appointments just don’t flow in as quickly as you wish they would. Here are 5 ways to encourage both consumers and loyal clients to book online, more often.

1. Promote your availability.

Sound a bit obvious? Regardless, many small businesses get so bogged down by the daily tasks of running a business, they forget to promote empty appointment slots that cost them money.

Use your marketing channels to let consumers and loyal customers know you’re open for business!

Try sharing openings via the following channels, each linking to your appointment booking software or online calendar:

  • A Facebook post to your Business Page
  • An image post to your Instagram (there’s an app—or two—for that!)
  • A prominent button or page on your website
  • An every-now-and-again email
  • An SMS text message, to those who’ve opted in

2. Follow up after every appointment.

I love my hair stylist. But when I’m at the salon, I don’t tend to book my next appointment in advance. It’s not because i’m unsure whether or not I’ll return—I’ll definitely return. It’s because I’m usually in a hurry to get out of there and onto my next errand.

To get me to book online, they follow up with text and email reminders. These reminders include a thank you for my business and a link to book my next appointment.

Text reminders aren’t anything new. But theirs have something special that seals the deal.

My salon sends their reminders 6 weeks after my last appointment. Why? Women tend to visit the salon for a cut or color about that often, if not with just a couple more weeks in between. By reminding me right around the time I should come back in, they give me an effortless way to book my next appointment. No effort on my part, a little effort on theirs, and they get a booked appointment.

Think about how often you see customers on average. Better yet, use a CRM like Thryv to review each customer’s individual appointment history, and follow up accordingly.

3. Create urgency, even if there’s none.

I’ll let you in on a little secret. (Well, if you run a services business, this may not be a secret at all.)

But did you know around 40% of appointments are booked less than one day in advance? It’s not just you, or your last-minute, procrastinator clients, who fall victim to this phenomenon.

If people are already inclined to book appointments at the eleventh hour, give them a little nudge. You can do this by creating urgency and finding creative ways to entice fast, on-the-spot bookings.

Need some ideas?

  • Manufacture urgency, even if there is none. Communicate via your most popular channels that you have “one final spot!” available tomorrow, or this week.
  • Gamify it. When you do communicate last-minute openings, make a competition out of it. Tell your audience the first to respond or comment gets the opening.
  • Add a deadline to book. Require 24 hours advance notice for bookings, and communicate the policy. This will help customers feel the pressure to book earlier than they might have otherwise.

4. Use special discounts and one-time deals.

It might seem counterintuitive that you’d have to give up something to get a booked appointment in return. But you don’t have to discount your services as deeply as you might think you would to get clients to book.

Instead of offering a new promotion to every client who books, offer a discount to anyone who books within a certain time frame. You can communicate this to customers in store or even to clients who follow you online.

This might sound like:

  • “15% off your next appointment when you book online, tomorrow only!”
  • “Book your next appointment online before your leave the store, and get a free sample.”
  • “Refer a friend, and get $10 in store credit when they book online.”

5. Build your library of testimonials and reviews.

We talk all the time about how much consumers trust online reviews. Testimonials and online reviews do a lot for your business.

First and foremost, they boost your reputation and give you much-needed social proof online. So anyone who stumbles upon your website, or a business listing of yours, can decide for themselves whether you’re a good option for them.

They also help you get found (and booked) in the first place. Top search engines like Google are using business ratings and reviews to influence their search rankings more and more. They’re even serving up consumer-generated input like ratings as part of their results.

When you have a high volume of positive reviews online, you’re more likely to show up in searches for businesses like yours. And, if you include a Book Now button in your business listings (you definitely should), it helps consumers who find you this way book on the spot.